First Launch: 1966-12-26. Last Launch: 1971-03-03. Number: 8 . Longitude: 100.32 deg. Latitude: 41.31 deg.
The launch vehicle arrived at the site on 18 March 1969. The objective was to launch China's first satellite before Japan lofted its counterpart. Ren Xinmin had obtained this specific order from Deng Hsiao Peng. Great difficulties were encountered in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, including the sending of most of the satellite engineers to work on irrigation ditch construction in the provinces. The skirt for the satellite, designed to make it easily visible to ground observors, had to be made from a special silk produced in a factory without the knowledge of the Red Guards. The engineers went by bus to a department store in Beijing to study an imported folding umbrella as a model for the deployment mechanism -- they could not afford to buy it. The entire launch was kept secret until a documentary was released in 2001.
The final campaign to launch China's first satellite began on April 1, 1970, when two DFH-1 satellites and the CZ-1 rocket arrived by train at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. This was over a year after the first attempt in 1969. Ren Xinmin was project leader and Qi Faren was leader of the DFH-1 experiment team. On April 2 Premier Zhou Enlai called a special meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for a final readiness review of the satellite and the launch vehicle. Zhou wanted special guarantees that the satellite would transmit the march 'The East is Red' from orbit.
On the morning of April 24, 1970, the first and second stages of CZ-1 were loaded with propellant and stacked. The satellite was mated to the spin-stabilized solid-propellant third stage, and the launcher entered the final eight hours of launch preparation. Weather forecast for the launch at 9:30 p.m. called for clouds at above 7,000 meters and a wind speed of less than 4 to 5 meters per second.
The historic launch came at 9:35 p.m. local time (13:35 UTC). Upon hearing the command "ignition", a launch controller pressed the button to start the rocket engines. The three-stage CZ-1, which was 29.46 meters tall and had a maximum diameter of 2.25 meters, lifted off the launch pad with a thrust of 104 tonnes. Liftoff weight of the CZ-1 was 81.5 tonnes. Rocket expert Shen Jianan recounted that "..as soon as I saw the liftoff on the TV screen inside the bunker, I ran outside. I could only see the beautiful rocket lighting up the night sky and streaking towards the southeast. I ran back inside to listen to the transmissions. Broadcasting on the speaker were status reports like 'capturing target', 'nominal tracking', 'nominal flight', 'nominal second and third stage separation'..." Thirteen minutes after launch, at 9:48 p.m., mission control announced "...satellite and rocket stage separation, satellite enters orbit...the bunker was filled with cheers".
China became the fifth nation after the former Soviet Union, the United States, France and Japan to achieve an indigenous space launch capability. At 9:50 p.m., the National Broadcasting Bureau announced the acquisition of the tune 'East is Red' from the satellite loud and clear. In the following days, the People's Central Broadcasting radio and newspapers in Beijing announced and printed worldwide times of DFH-1 and CZ-1 third stage passages, and directions of travel in the sky. Senior officials in Beijing dispatched a chartered plane to JSLC to bring back Qi and other scientists. In the International Labour Day celebration on May 1, Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou warmly welcomed them at the Tiananmen Square.